8K, UHD-2, HDR Technologies Move Forward
The broadcast television industry is trying to keep pace with the momentum of 4K, 8K, HDR and higher color gamuts, while maintaining cost efficiency and quality, and this all means that homeowners may someday use advanced set-top boxes in their homes that receive a combination of broadcast and streaming media.
While the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), TV manufacturers and enthusiasts whet their appetites on 4K and the limited, but growing amount of content from companies such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, the broadcast industry has bigger issues on its plate.
Sure 4K, HDR (high dynamic range) and an expanded color gamut (ITU-R BT.2020) are high priorities, but during the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade event, the Japanese broadcast company NHK had already moved beyond 4K by demonstrating 8K.
The discussion for media beyond 8K doesn’t end with this tradeshow demonstration either. A recent Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) blog written by Michael Goldman examines the opinions of Andy Quested, head of technology for HD and UHDTV initiatives, BBC. Summarizing Quested’s position in the Goldman story, the broadcast community will have to assess every aspect of the broadcast chain before UltraHD becomes truly ubiquitous.
Goldman emphasizes one of Quested’s major points is that while the consumer market matures with improved televisions, camera manufacturers are also improving their products, and more opportunities are being provided by IP technologies, but there remains a lack of UHD television services.
Quested goes on to say that until the entire chain is addressed that incremental improvements such as 4K aren’t going to mean much.
“In a sense, it is a major risk to make HD look too good because why would anybody want to throw huge amounts of money into production and bandwidth to bump up the viewing experience just a small amount more … basically [we] getting the best HD you can by using UHD cameras and displays,” he states in the story.
Based on the trends he is seeing in the industry, Quested points out a greater emphasis could end up being placed on streaming content and the development of advanced set-top boxes that match the content to consumers’ televisions. This he theorizes will aid in the process of implementing a piece-by-piece overhaul of the television ecosystem. Goldman says that for now the first point of action is aimed at ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020 UHD-1 (2,160/4K).
The second phase of the multi-part plan is Super Hi-Vision or UHD-2 (4,320/8K), but Goldman points out that Quested isn’t sure 8K will ever make the dedicated broadcast level.
“Even the Korean broadcasters working on UHD-2 and NHK are not saying there will be dedicated [8K] services for many years,” Quested says. “But there could be a mixture, which is interesting, where you might never have an entire 8K service or channel, but you may have 8K programming like the 2020 Olympics, which is something the Japanese are very focused on. I doubt we will know their plans or anyone else’s for standard Super Hi-Vision services until after that event in 2020. But those Olympics do tell you how short five or six years can be. They have to build an entire infrastructure just to do the largest broadcast ever in the world. In the meantime experiments will continue. We will need to see some content.”
During this time, Quested adds consumers could end up taking their time with their UHD decisions and the broadcast market will have to decide what type of financial approach they are going to take with these impending technologies.
“There is some consumer fatigue out there, and there are some business decisions for broadcasters to make … for UHD-1 the pieces are coming together. SMPTE has an HDR standard, primarily targeted at non-broadcast content, and the ITU is working on HDR standards and HD SDI options,” explains Quested.
Speculating about what the future holds for TV, Quested theorizes that next-generation formats could ultimately use a combination of deliver methods with the bottom line being access to content.
“Will the consumer even know or care where their TV is pulling the content from as long as it looks good,” he asks rhetorically. “From them, it will be about the quality of the experience, and those possibilities are great. For the broadcaster, we have to remember that we are aiming for those eyeballs sitting on the sofa or watching a high-resolution portable. Consumers don’t really care how they get the pictures, as long as they don’t have to do anything difficult to get it.”
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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